As the global economy snaps back, product managers are going to start traveling once again. Where will we be going? One place that we should plan on spending some time will be at industry trade shows (pause for collective groan). No, these are not the most enjoyable things to go to just to hand out your business card; however, maybe you feel this way because nobody ever told you how to get the most out a trade show…
It’s All About Having Goals
In all of my years of attending countless trade shows, it’s only been in the past 10 or so that I’ve gotten my act together and started creating goals for what I want to accomplish while I’m there. As simple as this may sound, there’s actually a trick to doing it right.
The goals that you set need to consist of creating a specific business purpose that has an associated objective that is quantifiable. It can be very easy to get caught up in the show (the ton of pre-show material that you get can help to build the hype), but in the end identifying who you want to talk with and what you want to learn will make sure that your time is well spent.
Time Management Counts At Trade Shows Also
You wouldn’t show up for work without having a plan (would you?) so you need to have a plan in place BEFORE you hit a trade show. You can create your plan by taking the time to read the convention promotion material and go over the meeting agendas.
If you want to take it to the next level, you can spend time studying the layout of the show floor so that you know what vendor booths you want to visit and in which order you are going to want to visit them. Just before the show, take an hour and surf the web sites of the firms that you are thinking about visiting and make a final decision as to if you want to spend the time with them.
It’s All About Appointments
To get the most out of any show, the best way to maximize your time is to schedule appointments with customers and vendors before the show. Now you are not the only one to realize this and so you’ll have to set up your appointments well before the show date in order to get on everyone’s calendar.
Too Much Really Is Too Much
A trade show is a dynamic event – you might think that you know what is going to happen before the show, but things can change either before or during show. This means that you don’t want to fully book your day – leave open times. This “free time” will become valuable as you meet new people at the show and want to have discussions with them.
Having a list of back-up people and booths that you’d be willing to visit with is always a good idea. If an appointment cancels on you or if a scheduled vendor doesn’t show up, you’ll need to have a plan to fill in your sudden free time.
Work With Non-Competing Firms
Look, any trade show is probably too much for you to handle as a lone product manager. Even if other people from your company are going, you could still quickly end up being overloaded. One way to deal with this situation is to enlist help from product managers at other firms.
This might sound a little weird to you, but here’s how it goes. You reach out to your network of product mangers who work for other non-competing companies and find out who will be attending the same show. You call them up and find out what they are going to be pushing at the show. Likewise, you tell them what you’ll be promoting. Finally, you offer to send any prospects that you run into their way if they’ll do the same for you. This can be a great way to reach out to potential customers that you might not otherwise be able to contact.
What All Of This Means For You
A trade show can easily appear to be a big waste of time – if a product manger is not prepared in advance for it. However, if you take the time to plan out what you’ll be doing, it can turn into a big success for both you and your product.
The key is to take the time before the show to sit down and identify what you really want to accomplish, who you want to meet with, and how you can get your message out to the most people who will be at the show.
Time is the one thing that product managers never seem to have enough of. Trade shows can be an enormous waste of time if you don’t plan for them. However, by doing some planning before the big show, you can transform this potential waste of time into a big boost for your career and your product.
How do you prepare in order to get the most out of attending a trade show?
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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time
I can only speak for myself, but I actually enjoy going to industry trade shows. That being said, the reason that I get to go to a trade show is because I’m expected to do things there that will help my product be more successful. That is the part that requires some preparation on my part.,,